"Wait until next year"
"If the the last round of budget cuts seemed painful, wait until next year, warns one of Florida's top economic forecasters."
''Clearly, no matter what, next year is worse than this in terms of the mismatch between expenditure needs and revenue,'' University of Florida economics researcher David Denslow said Thursday, following his testimony before the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission. The commission, which meets every 20 years, is considering tax issues to put on the November 2008 ballot.And this is supposed to be the light at the end of the tunnel:
''The question is how bad next year is going to be," Denslow said. "If we get hit in addition to the housing downturn with a national recession, we're in trouble.''
Florida's tax outlook is bright down the long road, as the nation's baby boom generation retires and heads south, Denslow and fellow LeRoy Collins Institute researcher Carol Weissert told the tax commission.And it's the age old issue:
They predict that rising property prices that make the Florida coast unaffordable for many of its current residents won't trouble the increasingly affluent newcomers expected to retire here.
The policy problem becomes how to convince the wealthy elderly to pay for the education and health care of inland residents that are much younger, poorer and more racially diverse."Future budget outlook grim, economists say".
Here's a silly idea: what about an intangibles tax? That way, wealthy elderly transplants - instead of freeloading on the backs of residents that are much younger, poorer and more racially diverse and have been paying sales and property taxes (the latter in may cases through rent payments) - can pay for at least some of the government services they use and infrastructure they enjoy.
"When a 12-year-old manages to rise up to become the Speaker of the Florida House"
Noticeably absent from Tallahassee's version of posing atop Lenin's tomb during Gov. Charlie Crist's "We Are The World" victory lap celebrating the Legislature's passage of a [whopping #240 per household] property tax reform package was House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-Miami's answer to "Blue Boy.""Speaker Learns His Lesson In The 11th Hour".
The tradition of political theater holds that after everyone has finished stabbing one another in the back, the parties to the legislative process gather to offer up fake smiles, tepid handshakes and all the brotherhood of Afghan warlords to pretend love is in the air.
So there was Gov. Happy-Happy-Joy-Joy, flanked by Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and Senate President Ken Pruitt, yucking it up for the cameras over the property tax agreement.
And where was Rubio? Off holding his breath, perhaps.
This sort of petulance is the inevitable result when a 12-year-old manages to rise up to become the Speaker of the Florida House. Just kidding - sort of.
"If you don't think the Florida Legislature did enough to lower your property tax bill, you have at least one more hope: the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission."
Meeting in Tallahassee on Thursday, just three days after state legislators approved a proposed constitutional amendment on property taxes for the Jan. 29 ballot, commissioners began talking about what they might put before voters in the November 2008 general election."Florida budget commission panel gets a shot at taxes".
Of special interest to the commission are those property owners — like recent home buyers, business owners and second-home owners — who might not think they got a fair shake from the Legislature.
Unfortunately, as the Tallahassee Democrat reports in an article today that the Commission has little to show for itself:
Commission member Julia Johnson, a former Public Service Commission member who is president of an Internet communications company, expressed frustration that after 66 meetings, the tax commission has yet to fully delve into the policy challenges raised by the changing complexion of Florida's population..It is probably fair to say, though, that the members of the tax commission have gotten a lot of "networking" and "interfacing" in during these 66 tax funded meetings.
''I'm ready to push the panic button,'' Johnson said.
Thank goodness "the commission has until May 4 to complete its proposals and has devoted November and December to discussing what it will do [and otherwise networking and interfacing with fellow swells]." "Panel may do what Legislature couldn't". See also "Constitutional panel may offer voters more property tax relief" and "DBNJ: State panel eyes November ballot for more tax cuts".
But mommy, Jebbie and Dubya promised . . .
"The rescue of the Florida Everglades, the largest and most expensive environmental-restoration project on the planet, is faltering." And this will shock nobody - it was all Rovian political crap, designed to make Jebbie and Dubya look like they gave a damn about the environment generally and the Everglades in particular:
Some environmentalists think that having Jeb Bush in Tallahassee even hurt the restoration because the White House effectively handed it off to him."Everglades restoration teeters". See also "Bush likely to veto water bill; Congress expected to overturn".
As a result, pressing state priorities — enough drinking water and flood control to accommodate South Florida's rapid population growth — took precedence over restoring a clean flow of water to Everglades National Park and the surrounding ecosystem.
Nathaniel Reed, a conservationist who was an assistant interior secretary in the Nixon and Ford administrations, said that Karl Rove, President Bush's former political strategist, supported the restoration because he thought it was good politics — "the Bush brothers saving a dying ecosystem," Reed said.
"Phyllis Busansky, who ran unsuccessfully against Gus Bilirakis in 2006 for 9th Congressional District House seat, is backing John Dicks against Bill Mitchell in the Democratic primary that will pick a new challenger." "Busansky Backing Dicks In Primary".
"U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle set an expedited Dec. 5 hearing Thursday for a suit filed by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Alcee Hastings, seeking to make their national party recognize the Florida delegation at the Democratic National Convention next summer." "Hearing set for Dec. 5 in DNC suit".
"The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ruled that the state's new lethal-injection methods, revised after a botched execution in December, are constitutional." "Court clears way for executions". Even an anesthesiologist appointed by Jebbie to the
the Bush investigative commission, said he was surprised at the court's decision Thursday."Lethal injection okay in Florida". See also "State Supreme Court upholds lethal-injection procedures".
"I cannot agree that individuals without advanced medical training would have the ability to adequately assess the level of anesthetic depth," he said.
Suzanne Keffer, attorney for condemned inmate Deco Lightbourne, filed one of the two challenges to the lethal injection procedure that the court addressed Thursday.
"Most states make sure the qualifications of the executioners are known, if not their identity," she said. "But not Florida. Here, they are ignoring that a nonmedical person is doing this."
A Florida thing
"Clown robs victims at gunpoint in Downtown Disney".
Citizens does it better . . .
The Tampa Trib editorial board: "Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is no longer the state's insurer of last resort. With 1.4 million policies, it's the largest insurer in Florida."
"Citizens Property Insurance Corp.'s Surprisingly Successful Evolution".
The Wall Street Journal goes too far when it accuses Gov. Charlie Crist of socialism for approving the expansion of Citizens, which now covers other perils as well as wind damage.
After all, the insurance market has hardly been competitive here of late.
The largest insurance companies - State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide - don't want to write more policies in Florida. And while some smaller companies have entered the market and see a chance to make money here, most property owners in areas at high risk of significant wind damage can't get insurance coverage except through Citizens.
So what would The Wall Street Journal have Crist and lawmakers do? Let people go without coverage? Or force homeowners to pay excessive rates to an industry that is under-serving the state?
Given the circumstances, the state responded sensibly.
Notwithstanding that glowing acknowledgment of the government doing yet another thing better than the private sector, the Trib editors can't resist putting their feet into their mouths: "We've never liked the idea of the state entering the insurance business and would prefer that the market meet the public's needs."
"The accusations run the gamut: Business ties to Cuba. Domestic violence. Drunken-driving arrests. Also: Ethics lapses. Missed commission votes. Links to special interests. These are just some examples of the mudslinging that voters are encountering as the rough-and-tumble race for mayor and three commission seats in Miami Beach draws to a conclusion Tuesday." "Beach campaigns get ugly".
Water war truce
"Crist emerged from a meeting Thursday with federal officials and his Georgia and Alabama counterparts saying he is "confident" they will work toward a regional water-crisis plan that protects Floridians. But tensions remain between the feuding states."
An "interim" plan worked out Thursday gives the Army Corps of Engineers the legal flexibility to reduce the outflow from Lake Lanier in north Georgia into the Chattahoochee River in phases - up to 16 percent - to protect the shrinking drinking water supply for metro Atlanta."River Agreement Reached". See also "Crist gives more water to Georgia" and "Water peace won't come easily".
To address concerns of Florida and Alabama about downstream repercussions on the Apalachicola and Flint rivers, the corps will closely monitor the effect each phase of the planned water-flow reduction has on wildlife, fishing, farming, municipalities and power plants. . . .
Crist was not on hand for an earlier meeting Thursday with Bush administration officials, attended by Perdue, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and the four U.S. senators from Alabama and Georgia.
"A candidate for state House district 34 raised the ante today in his bid to disqualify the front-runner in the race. Lake Mary attorney Joe Rosier, who is running as a no party affiliation candidate, filed a formal court challenge claiming that Republican Chris Dorworth's name should be stricken from the ballot because he failed to comply with the state's resign-to-run law."
At the heart of Rosier's claim is that Dorworth failed to comply with the state statute because he resigned from the Seminole Soil and Water Conservation District board in an e-mail -- not in writing -- and did not notifying [Secretary of State Kurt] Browning's office and Gov. Charlie Crist's office."House district 34 candidate files court challenge".
Under the resign-to-run law a candidate who serves on an elected board must resign in writing no less than 10 days before qualifying to run for another office. Dorworth resign [sic] from the soil and water conservation district through an e-mail sent to the district's executive director in August. Neither Browning's nor Crist's office has been able to produce copies of Dorworth's resignation.
"Don't tase me bro"
"Andrew Meyer, appearing on NBC's 'Today Show,' said he went to Kerry's appearance at the Gainesville campus on Sept. 17 to ask the 'serious political questions that you saw me asking. My only agenda was to raise the important issues that the media doesn't talk about -- the disenfranchisement of voters. When I talk about disenfranchisement, I'm talking about American voters not being allowed to vote and not having their votes count,' Meyer told interviewer Matt Lauer." "Tasered UF student wanted to raise 'important issues'".
"Inverse floaters" [sic]
While the bulk of Floridians try to "earn" an honest living, some among us make their "unearned" income via delightful financial instruments known as "inverse floaters" [sic]. Fortunately, the state is stepping in to help these unproductive leeches from their own greed.
"The Office of Financial Regulation has filed an administrative complaint against former Seminole Booster president Don Reinhard accusing him of defrauding investors."
The complaint says that Reinhard invested heavily in "inverse floaters," which were "highly speculative, volatile, and fraught with risk." The complaint says that Reinhard did not explain the risk of these investments to his investors and that it was "destined for failure as soon as there was a rise in the interest rates.""Ex-booster accused of defrauding investors".
To be sure, crooks should be arrested, but it is hard to sympathize with folks who risk money on, well . . . "inverse floaters".
Just in time for Thanksgiving
"Gas prices could rise by 35 cents for the holidays".
"In June, Crist signed into law a bill that allows the state to lease some existing toll roads, including Alligator Alley, to private companies for up to 50 years or, with legislative approval, 75 years. (Florida's [Ronald Reagan] Turnpike is specifically excluded.) The law allows automatic toll increases to keep up with inflation and could set them as high as $10 on Alligator Alley within a decade. The new measure also allows the state to contract with private companies to build new toll roads." "Ask the Governor: How will privatizing the roads help Floridians?".
The property tax deform "'is going to fire-up Florida's economy -- this economic engine that's been held back,'" says good time Charlie." But "will the slumping Florida housing market [really] get a major boost if voters approve a measure that allows homeowners to take their tax break with them when they move?"
That's what lawmakers are touting, but some economists question whether the legislation will do much to reverse the current slowdown in homes sales."Proposed tax changes may have only a marginal impact on real-estate slump".
The so-called tax portability will have a "marginal, positive effect on the real estate market, certainly, not of the size and magnitude to cause a major recovery," said Hank Fishkind, an Orlando-based private-sector economist who has served as an adviser to a number of Florida governors.
Sean Snaith, an economics professor at the University of Central Florida, said the measure isn't likely to spur home sales to a significant degree or make much difference to the overall health of the state.
The St Pete Times editors write that "ex-offenders hoping to turn their lives around are precluded from nearly 100 different occupations, from electrician to exterminator. How are these people to make restitution to their victims and regain a footing in society if they are prevented from making a living? Reform is needed, and it can be largely accomplished through an executive order. " "Help ex-offenders get back to work".
Charlie goes for the Parrothead vote
"Crist met privately with [Jimmy] Buffett for about 10 minutes".
Buffett would not allow a reporter to join Crist for the meeting, but afterward the governor said they thanked each other for working to protect manatees. Crist recently pushed state wildlife commissioners to delay a decision to downgrade protections for the sea cows."Crist and Jimmy Buffett talk about manatees before concert".
State experts have determined that the manatee is no longer endangered, a term that means a species is at imminent risk of extinction. They say the animal should be reclassified as threatened, which means it faces a high risk of extinction.
"He said, 'I just want to thank you for what you did for the manatees,'" Crist said. "And I said, 'No, thank you. Thank you for doing so much for our state and looking out for our wildlife and our natural estuaries and caring so much about Florida.'"
Buffett was a supporter of former Democratic Govs. Lawton Chiles and Bob Graham. Last spring, Crist appeared with Sheryl Crow to promote awareness of climate change. Crow is also known for supporting Democrats, including former presidential nominees John Kerry and Al Gore.
"I don't care if they're Democrat, Republican or independent, I just care if they have concerns for our Florida. Clearly this man does," Crist said. "I'm reaching out to everybody. It's important to. We need to come together to do what's right. Division happens in Washington."